Screen Gems // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // March 22nd, 2010
The hardest part of the perfect crime is getting out alive.
Armored is a decent small scale project from Nimrod Antal, a directorial pause for breath following his enjoyable 2007 debut Vacancy and the upcoming reboot of the Predator franchise. Armored isn't as consistently impressive a genre movie as Vacancy was, but it still manages to get the job done in a concise 88 minutes. Armored is a thriller that will sit well alongside some pizza and beer; it's entertaining despite lacking any truly memorable moments.
Ty (Columbus Short, Quarantine) is struggling with finances, and finding it hard to keep his kid brother afloat after the death of their parents. Ty works as part of an armored transport security crew but his meager salary can't match the debts left behind by his parents. When fellow co-worker Mike (Matt Dillon, Crash) informs Ty that he and a few other employees are looking to loot $42 million from the firm, the youngster is left in a dilemma. Ty eventually succumbs and goes with the crew to collect and stash the money, but when he arrives at their warehouse hideout, he has a change of heart. Ty locks himself in one of the armored transports with half the money, leaving his fellow co-conspirators vexed and seeking a way to extract Ty and get away with the heist before its too late.
Armored doesn't try much new or even stretch its talented cast, but it is tightly written. Low key actioners often end up dull due to a lack of budget and narrative focus; Armored suffers from neither. The film cost $20 million to make, which is just about enough to successfully depict the story, and the screenplay is robustly constructed and works its way to a satisfactory conclusion. Debut scribe James V. Simpson creates a few interesting characters and concocts a several moments of palm sweating tension. Antal's steady hand behind the camera provides an added dose of gravitas, but on the whole this is a reasonably well written movie. Hell, even the dialogue isn't too bad.
It's odd that so many big names attached themselves to Armored. Matt Dillon and Columbus Short are given engaging arcs and both provide great performances, but everyone else feels overqualified for their role. Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix) and Jean Reno (Godzilla) both handle their stints well, but one feels they are thespians who deserve more rewarding material. Nearly every actor in the film is involved in the slow burning warehouse faceoff, and so it helps that such a tolerable bunch of individuals are present for much of the project's runtime. Whilst Dillon provides the best performance as the edgy Mike, it's Columbus Short who really keeps Armored ticking. The 27 year old holds the audiences sympathy for the duration and even does well in the earlier expository scenes. Seeing as nearly every other character is painted to some degree as a villain, it's important to have a hero worth routing for, and Short provides just that.
Armored generates most of its excitement from anticipation and the ever escalating problems the participants come to face. Along with battling each other in the grimy setting, the characters have to suffer the presence of a drifter, potential interference from the law, and the odd minor explosion. It's these taut additions to the central plot that keep viewers on their toes rather than an all-guns blazing approach. The film does offer the odd action smeared interlude, but under Antal's leadership they take a backseat in exchange for patches of heated suspense. Armored is ultimately quite forgettable and doesn't really give audiences anything new or overly refreshing, but by the same token it's solidly executed and above average in nearly every department. Armored harks back to a simpler time for cinema, and in today's world of bloated blockbusters, that's no bad thing.
The production is technically competent and rarely deploys CGI. The DVD gives the film a respectable video presentation and the sound design is perfectly ample for home entertainment purposes. The disc comes with a bizarre commentary with one of the film's producers and two of its least prominent cast members, Skeet Ulrich and Milo Ventimiglia. The trio provide a disappointing track and listeners will be pining for the surely more informed input of Antal, Short or even Dillon. Sadly it never arrives. There are also three featurettes included that detail the stunt work, set design and general making of in moderate detail. These are perfectly watchable but in light of the weak commentary fans are likely to have quite a few unanswered questions left on the tips of their tongues.
Armored is a winner, albeit a fairly minor one. If you're looking for a light thriller that doesn't insult your intelligence, Armored will fit the bill quite nicely. However I really hope Antal infuses the forthcoming Predators with a more ambitious burst of filmmaking.
Not Guilty, Armored is worth a rental.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Screen Gems
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13